November 15th, 2023

The Benefits of Jumpstarting Estate Planning

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Author: Sarah J. Broder

As the holiday season unfolds and we transition into the New Year, it’s important to consider a resolution that holds significant importance for ourselves and our loved ones: reviewing estate documents. There’s no need to wait until January 1st to start this process! December is often filled with holiday festivities, family gatherings, and travel, making it a busy and potentially stressful time. Starting the estate planning process early ensures that individuals can focus on these important decisions without the distractions of the holiday season. You can enter the new year with your affairs in order and your resolutions already in progress.

Regularly revisiting your existing estate planning documents, whether it’s a will, trust, powers of attorney, or health care directives, is crucial. Begin by asking yourself:

  • When was the last time I read these documents?
  • Do these documents align with my current goals?
  • Have circumstances changed, necessitating a reassessment of asset allocations and beneficiaries?
  • Are the individuals in charge of my affairs still appropriate given current circumstances?

If you haven’t reviewed these documents in a few years, now is the time.

Estate planning documents empower us to dictate when and how our beneficiaries (including spouses and children) receive their inheritance and designate responsible individuals for managing it. Consider factors such as:

  • Special needs of beneficiaries
  • Support for charitable endeavors
  • The need for asset protection
  • Fair and thoughtful distribution of family heirlooms and jewelry

In your annual review, don’t overlook beneficiary designations. Assets with designated beneficiaries, such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies, typically bypass your will, so it’s crucial to ensure that:

  • Designations for retirement funds and life insurance align with current goals
  • Designations are coordinated with other estate planning documents
  • Both primary and contingent beneficiaries are designated

Avoid relying solely on memory; review the actual designation form and request a copy from the custodian or trustee if necessary.

In conclusion, an estate plan is not immutable. If you haven’t established one or have neglected it for several years, consider this a reminder to review it regularly. Make it an early New Year’s Resolution to ensure your estate plan reflects your current situation. For any questions, contact our estates and trusts department at 301-340-2020.